A consequence of the current economic doldrums is the savvy wine consumer’s greater willingness to explore less-familiar wines and regions that offer both quality and value. This is especially true for those who wish to toast the holidays with something bubbly but do not want to shell out hundreds of dollars for a bottle of vintage Champagne.Thankfully, there are some terrific sparkling wines being made in many other locations including Italy, Spain and California.
Elegant with bright, fresh flavors, a glass of Prosecco is a delightful way to greet your holiday guests. Produced in the Friuli Venezia Giulia and Veneto regions in northeastern Italy, Prosecco is usually created in stainless steel tanks via the Charmat method rather than undergoing secondary fermentation within the bottle. Reportedly Hemingway created the Bellini by mixing Prosecco with peach juice in Harry’s Bar on Venice’s Grand Canal. However most Proseccos are best served solo; well chilled in a tall fluted glass. Mionetto makes some of the finest including their Mionetto Prestige Collection Brut, a lemon, apple and peach flavored, low-alcohol sparkler as well as the tasty, nicely balanced Mionetto Cuvee Rose 1887 that shows cherries, raspberries and a spicy nuttiness throughout its lengthy finish.
Other Italian sparklers worthy of the holidays are produced by the family-owned Ferrari Winery located in the Trentino region. Using the traditional Champagne varietals and methods, Ferrari produces nearly 5 million bottles annually including their 100 percent Chardonnay Ferrari Perle Metodo Classico 2004, which features almond, pear and apple flavors accented with minerals and toasty yeast. Also consider the nonvintage brioche and stone fruit flavored Ferrari Metodo Classico Brut and Ferrari Metodo Classico Rose Brut with raspberry and strawberry notes.
Produced almost exclusively in Catalonia, primarily from Macabeu, Parellada and Xarel-lo grapes, Cava is Spain’s premier sparkling wine value. The non-vintage Anna de Codorniu Brut Cava is a great bargain with bread and citrus aromas that lead into pineapple, honey and lemon flavors and a nice finish. The Segura Viudas Brut Heredad Reserva is consistently commendable with its rich, toasted bread aromas and bright fruit flavors with hints of spice.
The owners of the Spanish Cava winery Freixenet established Sonoma’s Gloria Ferrer Winery in 1986. Producers of sparkling and still wines from grapes grown in the cool-climate conditions of the Carneros region, Gloria Ferrer is known for both their award winning wines and their annual summer Catalan Festival of Food, Wine and Music. Their sparkling wines are true stars including the delicious, off-dry Va de Vi, a blend of Chardonnay, Pinot Noir with a bit of Muscat that has an enticing element of sweetness that matches well with the underlying pear, lemon, cherry and lime flavors. Also delightful is the very dry Gloria Ferrer Brut that has similar cherry and citrus notes along with stone fruit and apples. Their black cherry scented Gloria Ferrer Blanc de Noirs shows dark cherry, strawberry and citrus on a crisp frame and long finish.
Sonoma’s J Vineyards and Winery was founded as a sparking winery in 1986 by Judy Jordan. In 1994 she released her first single-vineyard Pinot Noir and has subsequently added Chardonnay and Pinot Gris to her award-winning portfolio. Her high-quality sparkling wines include the richly textured J Vineyards Brut 2005, a honey and toffee scented beauty with cherry, green apple and citrus flavors that persist into the lush finish. The J Vineyards Brut Late Disgorged 2003 is something special. Left on the lees to age for seven years, it opens with orange, apple and lime scents and flavors that meld into a complex mélange of nuts, caramel, spice, yeast and baked bread.